Brian Rohr: A storyteller's tale

Jacqueline Mention
Posted 3/20/12

This is the story of Brian Rohr.

Rohr is many things. Among them, he is poet, host, drummer, event coordinator and, above all, storyteller.

As the organizer and host of First Friday Storynight …

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Brian Rohr: A storyteller's tale

Posted

This is the story of Brian Rohr.

Rohr is many things. Among them, he is poet, host, drummer, event coordinator and, above all, storyteller.

As the organizer and host of First Friday Storynight at Better Living Through Coffee, as well as the annual April Fool’s Day “Trickster Tales: A Night of Storytelling,” Rohr has been engaged in the world of storytelling since 2007.

“There was a certain moment where I clearly got a calling,” says Rohr. “It was very clear that I got a calling to look into storytelling – to start paying attention to it.”

Clear as it may have been, it wasn’t until a couple of years later that Rohr began his dialogue with storytelling in earnest. In 2007, he attended what he describes as a “large Jewish spiritual gathering” in Albuquerque, N.M. It was there that he met his mentor, Daniel Deardorff.

The gathering, which was composed of 800 artists, rabbis, musicians and other spiritual seekers, comprised classes in many subjects geared to pair students with “mentors” in the same field.

“I saw that there was a storyteller and I didn’t care who he was. I just needed to know more about storytelling,” Rohr says of his enrollment. “What I didn’t know was it was Danny Deardorff. I get there, and we meet, and we instantly fall in love with each other.”

Call it fate, call it a spiritual joining, call it what you will, but, from that point on, Rohr’s path was clear. Shortly thereafter, he followed Deardorff to Port Townsend and became his student.

“Danny is not just a storyteller. There’s an energy that moves through him,” Rohr says.

Describing the first time he heard Deardorff tell a story, Rohr says, “I don’t know if I knew what storytelling was before that. This is medicine that’s being delivered.”

Enamored with his new mentor, Rohr spent time absorbing what he could from Deardorff, allowing himself to interact with and honor the stories he was learning. It took a year of this immersion before Rohr told his first story publicly.

 

THE FIRST STORY

Rohr was attending an open mike night at the Boiler Room when he was approached by the events organizer to be the storyteller at an upcoming pancake breakfast. “I was about to say ‘no,’ and ‘yes’ came out instead,” reflects Rohr with amusement. “So I actually told a story that night and then told it again a few days later.”

His stories were so well received that, before he knew it, he was performing regularly. Rohr soon began organizing story nights himself, first at the Boiler Room and then at Better Living Through Coffee.

 

THE OLD STORIES

As for the source of the stories he tells, Rohr focuses on what he calls “the old stories.” These consist of the myths, folktales and fairy tales of all different cultures. When asked why these stories resonate so deeply with him, Rohr explains that it is primarily the age of the stories that makes them so powerful.

“Stories that have lasted for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years have been distilled, making them speak to the human condition so potently. People are hungry for them,” he says. “There is a part of us that is indigenous in everybody. A part that looks around and says, ‘What the hell is going on?’ when looking at the big buildings, the cars, the computers.…When that part of us hears the stories, it’s like, ‘Oh, I get it.’”

Describe yourself in three words.

Creative, grounded and alive.

Describe your work in three words.

Ancient, relevant, important.

Who or what inspires you?

My teacher, Danny Deardorff, is a deep inspiration. But also, my community – the bigger sense of who I surround myself with is constantly inspiring me. And then, the old stories teach me how to live.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to look at someone and see fully deep into their being, their soul, and really know them. And, I must admit, I would also love to fly!

What, if anything, hangs on your walls?

For one, a ketubah, a Jewish wedding contract. It’s a beautiful piece of art that my wife, Sarah, and I wrote ourselves. Also, a huge painting that Sarah painted for my birthday. It’s of a lion and another animal, like a lion-dog, that are gazing at each other with so much love and respect. (My power animal is lion.) And a photo of a family of friends that live in Europe.

What is the last piece of music you listened to?

I was listening to something on KPTZ that sounded like Irish blues.

If you could name a park, a street or a building, which would it be and what would you name it?

Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield Eagle Mountain Memorial Park.

Are you creating what you want to create?

Yes and no. What I’m wanting to create is always evolving. I do my best with it.

Are you making a living doing what you want to do?

Barely.

What medium would you like to try?

It’s not specifically an art form, but some day I’d love to learn to fly.

How, if at all, does Port Townsend affect your work?

A lot. This is where I learned the art and the honoring of storytelling. This is where I first performed and shared my work, and got constant feedback over the years. I got to try a lot of things out. This town is very nurturing and an amazing place to be as an artist for creativity.

 

See Brian Rohr at First Friday Storynight, the first Friday of every month, 7-9 p.m. at Better Living Through Coffee, 100 Tyler St., and at “Courageous Acts: Revealing Solo Works,” 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 30-31 at Pope Marine Park Building (visit keycitypublictheatre.org). Rohr is also hosting the fourth annual “Trickster Tales: A Night of Storytelling,” 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 1 at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Visit brianrohr.com.

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